Researcher studying new biobed design at Lethbridge lab

By Justin Goulet (@JustinGoulet21)
March 4, 2019 - 11:14am Updated: March 4, 2019 - 1:35pm

LETHBRIDGE, AB – Doctor Claudia Sheedy wants to protect our crops and waters.

The researcher in Lethbridge is working on a unique biobed design that will boost protection offered by existing biobeds.

Sheedy works out of the Lethbridge Research and Development Centre, a branch of the federal government’s Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada department.

“Basically, a biobed is a structure designed to eliminate pesticide residues from sprayers’ rinsate,” Sheedy told LethbridgeNewsNOW.

Current systems only use one biobeds, but Sheedy’s design bumps that up to two, increasing the effectiveness of the beds.

“Our experimental setups across the Prairies are looking at a double biobed design that is working well for the Prairie conditions, but as part of those experiments, we’re realizing that some pesticides are more difficult to remove from sprayers’ rinsate than others,” she said.

“Our current research efforts are focused on finding ways to eliminate those pesticides that are more recalcitrant to degradation or removal by biobeds.”

Sheedy said another aspect of the design they are working on is using a “trough collection system” instead of a “collection pad”, noting that makes things easier for growers.

“When they (growers) come close to the biobed with their sprayers, they could drive over and basically release the rinsate through their sprayers’ booms directly into a collection system rather than having to transfer it from the collection pad into a sub-pump and into a collection container,” she said.

Sheedy has been studying biobeds since around 2012.

She said the main objective of the current project is to make the design of biobeds practical for growers, “so their adoption will go up across Canada and not just in the Prairies so that we can protect surface waters from contamination by pesticide residues.”

Sheedy said when pesticides are in the environment, they can contaminate surface and groundwater, produced food and can stay around for quite some time.

“If we can remove some of that contamination, I think that’s a winner for everyone including the public, but also growers who don’t like to be exposed to pesticides (any) more than the public is,” she said.

Sheedy said the design she’s looking at is a two-stage biobed.

“That means it’s two biobeds in threes, so the effluent from the first biobed is applied to the second biobed. That way we maximize the removal and degradation of pesticides,” she explained.

“If we have a single biobed system, we remove up to ninety per cent of the pesticide residues. If we do a double biobed, or two stage biobed in threes, we remove ninety-eight per cent of the massive pesticides applied to them, so it’s a more efficient system for our growers.”

She said the double biobed system works better for larger areas, and she’s seen interest from growers.

“I think cost is always an issue (though). Those biobeds can cost up twelve-thousand dollars, but currently under the CAP – the provincial, federal funding programs, biobeds are eligible for funding. I think it’s up to ten-thousand dollars, so there’s good incentives for growers to apply and build biobeds,” Sheedy said, adding biobeds are extremely common in Europe.

“There’s no reason why it wouldn’t happen here in Canada.”

A manual explaining further biobed use and maintenance is available through the federal government’s website.

“It’s a solution that I think our growers need to have for their operations and from a public perspective., if we can remove that source of contamination and protect our surface waters, I think it’s a great story. I’m really excited to work on biobeds and I hope we’ll make them better and better so that our producers are willing to adopt them.”

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